A few years ago, cross-platform app development was largely represented by hybrid frameworks like PhoneGap and Ionic. React Native brings a breath of fresh air to the market and is designed to simplify the creation of native apps. After a while, Flutter appeared on the scene. Have you won? Let's find out with the following comparison between Ionic and React Native with Flutter.
Mobile devices are huge these days. Development and support for iOS and Android mobile apps require separate dedicated teams. This is one of the main drawbacks of native application development. Flutter, React Native, and Ionic is the opposite. They allow you to leverage a single codebase and build applications that work on any platform. However, they don't fall into the same category as Ionic is a hybrid app framework. Before we compare these two mobile app-building solutions, let's refresh the key terms: hybrid and native.
Hybrid vs. original vs. cross-platform
Native apps are - as the name suggests - native to the platform they run on, in the appropriate programming language - Objective-C or Swift for iOS and Java or Kotlin for Android. You have unlimited access to all platform features.
React Native was developed by Facebook to solve the problem of poor hybrid performance and inefficient native app creation processes. As a result, many other consumer-focused techs and media brands such as Vogue, Bloomberg, Netflix, and others have turned to the framework. If you want details, read our blog post where we compare React Native to native app development.
In general, the working principle of React Native is simple: you write code in JS that interacts with native components of a particular operating system. No browser or even WebView is involved. The interaction between native code and JS code occurs through so-called bridges, which are separate for each operating system. As UI components, you can use those provided by Facebook or created by the React Native fan community.
React Native Benefits
Code reuse is one of the main benefits of React Native. In some cases, you can expect code reuse rates of up to 95%, significantly speeding up the development process and reducing costs.
The performance of apps built with React Native is excellent and much better than Ionic. However, it still lags behind native application performance because of the bridge between native components and business logic.
The UI of React Native apps is similar to that of the native product due to the use of platform-specific UI building blocks. In fact, regardless of the platform or device on which your app is installed, you get a better user experience.
A large support community and strict design paradigm ensure that projects built with React for mobile devices are easy to maintain.
React Native disadvantages
Digging into native code is something that engineers can come across when they need to understand components written in platform-specific languages. In this case, it's good to have some experience with Objective-C/Swift or Java/Kotlin.
A lack of a React background can hinder the smooth launch of a React Native project, as the library itself, its scripting approach, and JSX all take extra time to get started.
React Native automatically converts graphics for each platform, which can cause layout issues. In this case, you will have to tinker with the code to refresh your design.
IonicIonic precedes React Native (original 2013 release) by two years. This framework focuses on creating hybrid mobile apps that require a special HTML rendering engine, WebView, for your app to run on devices. Ionic is often credited as the successor to the once popular framework called Apache Cordova, but with improved documentation and a powerful command line interface. Another technology that influences the framework is Angular. So, if you have experience with the mentioned tools, you should have no trouble building apps with Ionic.
With Ionic, you don't have to spend a lot of time dealing with native languages or other platform-specific issues. It has several UI components with natural styles, as well as useful features like interactive paradigms, typography, mobile components, etc. This shortens the development cycle.
The framework is easy to learn and most engineers are familiar with the technology under the Ionic hood.
Fast prototyping with Ionic is possible thanks to preset templates, not to mention a variety of third-party starter kits.
One tap and run anywhere with Ionic is what you get in the full sense of the statement. You may need to make minor code changes to run your app on any platform.
Performance is the price you pay for the benefits of hybrid app development. Ionic is no exception and performance issues may occur when multiple callbacks are sent to native code.
Native UI look is something you should forget about when using Ionic. Your app will look the same regardless of the platform/device it's running on.
Using a browser causes apps to take longer to load and decreases responsiveness under CPU load.
Apps built with Flutter don't use native UI components, but consist of building blocks called widgets. They can be stateless (properties are immutable and must be final) or stateful (changeable for a lifetime). Also, there is no bridge between views and codebase like in React Native. Every UI component in Flutter is rendered in the Skia graphics engine. The machine runs in a platform-specific shell that hosts the Dart VM. This architecture provides fast and smooth user interface performance, similar to native applications.
The lack of a bridge between view and code greatly speeds up application responsiveness.
The UI building component, the widget, is rendered only when needed, which is similar to the declarative approach implemented in React.
Stateful Hot Reloading gives you instant updates on changes without restarting and rebuilding the widget tree when the app state is lost.
Dart supports AOT and JIT compilation, which improves application startup times and overall performance.
Which one is better?
The tools you use to develop mobile apps are a matter of personal and team preference. For those who prefer to build their own apps, React Native is more efficient thanks to native rendering, making apps faster and more responsive to end users. It also reduces application development time.
Flutter seems to be a worthy competitor to React Native, beating it in terms of performance, documentation support, and less dependency on third-party libraries. He has potential and will improve it even further, especially when Fuchsia enters the market.
While truly hybrid development platforms like Ionic are more prone to speed and usability issues that frustrate end users. User interfaces rarely meet the same standards as native apps or apps built with React Native.
Saving time and money is usually one of the reasons companies choose hybrid development platforms. However, they can backfire in terms of time spent fixing problems and errors. This issue seems to be less common among app developers using React Native.